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Dear Readers,

I am sitting on my deck with my morning tea so that I can fully enjoy the song of the Brood X cicadas. They are here for their infrequent and brief visit. I am well aware that most people do not share my enthusiasm for these creatures.  Many of you are probably avoiding the cicadas to the best of your ability and waiting anxiously for their departure.   It reminds me of the early days of the pandemic.  We each made whatever changes were necessary and possible to ride out what we expected to be a short period of isolation at home.  But, as the first anxious weeks stretched into months of “stay at home” and mask orders, a kind of normalcy took root.  Now, as those orders are lifted a new anxiety has arisen: re-entry anxiety.

In this issue of Flourish I will explore our hesitancy to return to maskless social gathering and in-person workdays.  The Top Ten will offer some suggestions to help you navigate your way through this latest set of stressful circumstances.  As for the cicadas, I promise they will leave on schedule.

Best,
Barbara
 

Pandemic, Cicadas...What's Next?

As our country begins to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, many of us are less enthusiastic or prepared than we anticipated we would be.  We spent a year longing for a return to normalcy, but now, as that opportunity approaches, we feel hesitant or even resentful.  There are many reasons some of us aren’t eager to get back out there including that the pandemic isn’t over.  Here are some other concerns you may have:

It’s a turbulent time in our nation and social distancing has offered a way to stay out of the worst of the political fray with some of our co-workers, family and friends.  We are not eager to confront those issues in person.

Pandemic socializing requires a new level of negotiating plans with family and friends beyond time and place.  Gathering in groups was already stressful for many of us.  Now we must wrestle with questions of whether to ask if everyone is vaccinated, what to do about unvaccinated people (including children), whether to require masks, and how large of a group feels safe.  It can be exhausting and uncomfortable to even contemplate social plans.

We’re out of practice.  Social distancing was, in some ways, a relief to those who are uncomfortable with social interactions.  But, even those who relished happy hours and Sunday brunches are feeling a bit hesitant about jumping back in.  The skills required for positive social experiences such as observing the rhythm of conversation and a variety of personal boundaries have atrophied over the last fifteen months.  We feel awkward and uncharacteristically reserved. 
   
We don’t want to give up time with our loved ones.  For all the endless juggling we did with parenting, working and tending to our homes, some of us were able to spend more time with the people we love the most.  We recoil at the thought of relinquishing some of that new-found time to sitting in beltway traffic.
 
We got used to our comfy clothes.  The pandemic changed our wardrobes too.  We have been wearing our most comfortable clothes for more than a year.  We stocked up on yoga pants, pajama bottoms and cozy tee shirts.  The thought of eight hour days in heels, make-up, ties or anything lacking a comfortable elastic waist-band makes us a little bit sad or even a little bit angry.

We can count on the cicadas to make their exit soon.  However, we will be dealing with our pandemic-related challenges for some time to come. We are going to need some strategies to help us cope with re-entry anxiety and stress.  The Top Ten that follows is intended to help you develop some strategies for your particular concerns.  If you find you need a little extra help, please don’t hesitate to call me. 
 

Ideas for Your Return from Dormancy
  1.  Know you aren’t alone.  Many people are struggling with what may seem like a fast-paced return to outside activities.  It’s normal to feel a little disoriented when significant changes occur suddenly.
  2. Acknowledge your feelings.  Don’t pretend that everything is fine.  Acknowledge to yourself and your loved ones that you are experiencing some discomfort with the changes that are happening.
  3. Start slowly.  Try to ease back into activities.  Work on a hybrid schedule if possible.  Plan social activities with one person at a time and space out those visits. 
  4. Start with the easiest.  Begin your social activities with the people with whom you are most comfortable.  The people you stayed in touch with during the shut down will likely be the easiest people to start seeing in person.
  5. Remove what doesn’t fit.  Many things changed over the last 16 months.  You may find that more than your clothes seem like a poor fit now.  It may be time to reassess your job, home or other areas of your life to determine if they contribute to the future you want.
  6. Be kind.  Be gentle with yourself and others as we all make this transition together. 
  7. Reconnect with community.  Part of the loneliness we have struggled with is due to all the people we have missed because we only see them in certain settings.  When you are ready, try rejoining one group such as your church, yoga class or book club.
  8. Don’t get discouraged.  If your first ventures out are more difficult than you anticipated, remind yourself that this is a process.  The more you expose yourself to new situations, the easier it will become.  But, do pace yourself so that you are not overwhelmed.
  9. Reward yourself.  Got that first day back at the office under your belt?  Give yourself a small treat as you might with any other accomplishment.
  10. Seek help.  Many people sought therapy to help them cope with the sudden and drastic changes that the pandemic brought with it.  The sudden return to our previous activities is no less stressful.  Reach out to a professional if you could use some help in this transition.

About Barbara Hill
Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems. Barbara works with adults confronting all types of challenges but is especially skilled at helping survivors of trauma.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
 
Copyright © 2021 Barbara Hill, LCSW-C, All rights reserved.

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